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Last night, my youngest son was inducted into National Honor Society at his school. There was the usual grumbling about going--not sure what "dressed up" meant on the invitation, are others really going to be there, etc. Busy schedules and multiple conflicts aside, we went--my son, his dad, and I.
We arrived to find the principal gesturing us to where there were still a few open seats in a packed chapel. Since he attends a Jesuit high school, the ceremony began with a prayer, thanking God for the gifts of scholarship and asking for help in using them well. I love this about the school--that there is a thoughtful prayer shared for the occasion. I know that this is not appropriate in all schools, as this type of prayer is particular to one faith. However, since it is my faith (Christianity, not Catholicism...) and the school we all chose, it soothes me as a parent to hear words about God when we gather.
Another aspect I admired about how this achievement was honored was the perspective that the speaker shared. Essentially, she said, "We know you're able to get good grades--you've shown that. Now what are you going to do? How are you going to share that talent, that gift with others so that everyone is lifted up?" Service is a requirement of National Honor Society at this school. Students must commit to several hours of tutoring others in need each year. It's not a huge commitment, but it is there, and it is integrity with what they espouse, which I admire and support.
Afterward, there were cookies and soft drinks. I mean, you deserve a cookie if you get into National Honor Society, right? We mingled with other parents, whom we have seen at other events--scouts and band and swim team and graduations of older siblings. Some looked a little more ragged than others--we have crossed into the time in our lives when many are dealing with difficult decisions about parents with dementia or Alzheimer's or "confusion." But my thoughts turned to the kids who weren't there.
I wished that every child could be acknowledged in such an honoring way for their gifts and talents. I wished that every school could honor the academically successful, the athletically successful, the dramatically successful, the artistically successful, the service-oriented, the scientifically successful, the socially successful--and the kids for whom making it to school each day is their success. I wished there was a way to give those kids who have slept on the couch, or endured another night of drunken parents, or no parents at home, or fighting parents--those who have not had enough food, or who are sick and don't have health care, or who just really need someone to talk to--I wished there was a way to appropriately honor those kids. To let them know that we, the adults whom society defines as "successful," see who they really are--that we see their beautiful spirits and we love them and are here for them; that we are able and willing to reflect back to them the best of who they are instead of the worst or their mistakes.
I don't know how that would look on the school calendar, but I trust there are those people every day who are in the schools doing just that. Sometimes, we have to redefine our definitions of success.
Appropriately, last night's ceremony was closed with this prayer from St. Francis of Assissi. May we each take it to heart today, and reflect the best in all who cross our paths:
This morning, I was excitedly sharing with my spiritual support group about Breakfast with Buddha--a novel I've found beautiful in places. I was talking about how I loved the joy in the book and the focus on love as what "makes go the world." It reminded me of the button I had in college that said, "Love is the answer. Now, what was the question?"
A character in the novel also describes God as music that is always playing--beautiful music--yet, not everyone can hear it. Not everyone is listening. With a clear mind, it is easier to listen; with a clear mind, it is easier to know that love is what makes the world go around.
Fast forward to the dinner hour, where, in the midst of my realizing I'd started it quite late, my son arrives and announces the dog has just had an accident. This particular rescue pup is prone to anxiety-induced random pees every once in awhile...While I deftly get the dog elsewhere, complete the stages of dinner that results in getting it into the oven, and clean up the accident, I ponder how to keep a clear mind. Just as I am taking a deep breath and reminding myself that my stress level is really my choice at the moment, my son wonders out loud what type of candy he should dress up as tomorrow for spirit week. I jokingly suggest he tie a pillow case over his head and go as a tootsie pop. Just the visual makes me laugh out loud, especially when I realize he can't see with a pillow case over his head and would be running into God knows what all day.
Then I start to think, what kind of mother would think that's funny? A human one. One that is thankful for the Hurricane of Grace that surrounds her, even when she is not listening. The air is dense with the aroma of dinner in the oven. The dog has settled for a nap on the couch. The son is ensconced in Spanish homework. Perhaps I am hearing a note of that beautiful music after all.
A friend of mine recently asked me to weigh in on the local Bikini Barista scandal. Yeah, I have a few things to say.....
The news story centers around some young women, ages 18-24, who have been charged with prostitution after a two-month investigation by Everett police detectives. Wow. Two months. That's a lot of opportunity to double check that when you drive through one particular stand for coffee, you get the mutual whipped cream licking extravaganza or a strip show. Maybe they were just being thorough, wanting to make sure that the girls were really doing this over and over and over again. One detective reportedly went once with a prosecuting attorney, and then went back on another occasion, where he witnessed more of the above behavior. Give the boys in blue a hand for their thoroughness. Boo-yah.
A dear friend told me last week that her daughter was just hired at a drive-through espresso stand near her town, where "the girls get more tips depending on what they wear, but it can't be 'skanky' or 'sleezy'." Talk about CYA. Wear what (or as little as) you want, but if you get in trouble, Mr. Boss-man will be able to say he warned you about not being "skanky" or "sleazy." The conversation came up when my friend found lingerie on the floor that her daughter was planning to wear to work.
Where's the equal opportunity employment here? While it's not against the law, obviously these private employers do discriminate on the basis of gender, age, and most likely, weight. I doubt I'd pass muster to be hired as a bikini barista, though the thought of a bunch of middle-aged mamas taking on this challenge does have a certain appeal.
I keep thinking about the blatant sexism involved in these cases. I mean, can you even imagine a coffee stand where male barista would stoop to this type of behavior? Actually, you don't have to imagine it. Check out this story from Silverdale, WA, where one male barsita did just that--donned pasties in an effort to poke fun at this craze of scantily clad female coffee makers in our state. But here's the rub. He did it as a joke. And in fact, this is no joke.
Imagine if a bunch of men were seriously hired to dress scantily on a regular basis to get more tips from predominantly female clients at a coffee stand. How long do you think it would take for someone to be up in arms about lewd and lascivious behavior toward young women in our midst? I doubt it would be anywhere near two months. And therein lies the irony. On the one hand, we have the "leave us alone" private enterprise folks saying it's no big deal, and on the other, we have a slap in the face of women's rights. Sex sells, and while some people may say it's the girls' prerogative to work somewhere like that, there is this--my friend's daughter is working where she does because "no one else is hiring right now." Since when is it ok to pimp out women in any sense of the word due to touch economic times?
Say what you may about first amendment rights and freedom of expression, but this is much deeper than that. If girls are feeling pressure to sexualize themselves for money in order to make a living, something is very wrong. We'd all frown if these were drug-addicted women on the street corners in our neighborhoods, so why isn't it the same outrage for the corner coffee stand? And where's the accountability for the owner for his employees' on-the-job conduct? Looking the other way is neither appropriate or excusable in this scenario.
Next time you or someone you know is told to wear a bikini to work by a male employer, think twice about the indirect impact on young girls and boys and other women and men in society. We need to band together as women and men to fight sexism, because the impact of it continuing is felt far beyond our neighborhoods, out cities, and even our country's borders. We are all worthy of dignity and respect, whether our bodies are judged bikini worthy or not.